The Barbed Review: "Team America: World Police"
Posted by Barbwire Mike on October 10th 2004
**WARNING: While I tried to keep the spoilers to a minimum, there are some below. If you want a totally unfettered experience wait til next Saturday to read**
You know the problem with movies today? Sure, the easy answer is “not enough DVDA,” but I mean as far as overall tone.
Doesn’t matter whether it’s a romantic film, a violent action movie, or a sex-laden teen comedy. There’s always an apologetic undercurrent. Political correctness rules the day. Only gays can make gay jokes. Any hint of racism must be shown in the worst possible light (unless the racism is directed at white people… then it’s glorified as “social activism”). The guy with the money is always evil. And if you DARE break any of these rules, you better do so to make a point later where the person “learned from their ignorance” (even that doesn’t always work, as Kevin Smith found out by having to dole out cash to gay groups for “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back”… never mind the whole POINT was that the characters were ignorant).
Then there’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
From the day ANYONE first heard of these guys, in the now infamous “Spirit of Christmas” video card they were commissioned to make, those rules have never applied. The fat, the Jews, and Jesus Christ were all mocked to jaw-dropping levels. Once they got to TV “South Park” completely reset the “taste” barriors for acceptability. Hamsters in the ass, NAMBLA predators, cannibalized parents… every time you think “they’ve got as far as they can go” damn if they don’t go out of their way to make it seem positively tame compared to what they pull next. And then of course there’s the movie, which gave us such highbrow comedy moments as “Operation Get Behind the Darkie,” Saddam’s realistic dildos, and a monster clitoris (prompting one of the top moments in the history of the unintentionally hilarious CAP REPORT.)
And just as they go where no one else will go, they go after who no one else will go after (at least outside of talk radio). They seem to be having their most fun when shamelessly violating the self-righteous elite, from Streisand to Reiner to Whoopi to Redford. Not because of their rabid right-wing leanings (remember “That’s My Bush?” Heh… you probably didn’t until just now), but because someone has to and the rest of the industry is too afraid to make a joke that might make a viewer for a second question the political leanings they’ve spent so much time trying to instill.
To Parker and Stone nothing is sacred, nothing and no one are above mockery, and EVERYONE gets a turn at being offended by them… which puts them in a nearly unique position when projecting their creativity. For reasons I can’t quite place, I tend to respect the shit out of that.
Which brings us to “Team America: World Police.” When I saw the first teaser for it, I hadn’t seen a single frame of film, nor had any idea what the premise was. All I saw was “Martin Sheen… Sean Penn… Tim Robbins… Susan Sarandon… Janeane Garofalo… Michael Moore… are all going to be very, very, very mad when they see this movie” and there was no question who was at the helm (and at least in one case, they’re undeniably right. I wonder if the celebrity photographer who snapped that pic of Penn giggled to himself while Sean was preaching the joys of pacifism).
Before turning this into a rant however, let’s just lay out what “Team America” really is: It is one of the funniest movies of at least the last five years. And if anything, that shortchanges just how much fun you’re actually in for.
By now you’ve seen the commercials, so you know the “catch”. Rather than live-action or cartoon, the boys decided to make a big-budget action film based on the marionette-casted “Thunderbirds” series of the late sixties. Now, it’s not like they’re the first to resurrect the format (Smeigel did it on SNL a few times), but the lengths they went to in order to pull it off never stop being noticeable. The sets, designed by ex-Henson workers, are amazingly detailed (which a brilliant opening shot ensures doesn’t get missed by anyone). Hell, they even hired the choreographer from “The Matrix” to make sure every shot, even though they involve puppets, looks “big budget actiony.”
But let’s face it, without a story and clever writing the premise has an entertainment shelf life of ten minutes tops. And that’s why this was done by most likely the only two people in the industry capable of pulling this off successfully.
“Team America,” like its Thunderbirds mentor, is an elite fighting force that descends upon evil doers and takes out the trash in the name of justice and freedom. However, unlike the clear-cut white and black hatted characters of the time, these guys tend to reflect a somewhat less than perfect approach to the problem. In the opening sequence, clearly evil terrorists are making an obviously shady deal on the busy streets of Paris. Right as the WMD in the briefcase is passed, our heroes swoop in to save the day… wiping them out with furious vengeance. Eeeexcept that in the process both the Eiffel Tower and The Louvre are levelled by the squad without them giving a second thought to anything but making dune coons die painfully. As they glowingly boast to the Parisians that the world is once again safe thanks to their actions, they are absolutely oblivious to the looks of horror by the locals surveying the ruins of their city. They quickly make their exit and return to base as the theme song “Team America… FUCK YEAH!” blares in their wake (the music is one of the high points of the movie, but it’s far closer to a South Park episode where Trey sings really funny “kitchy-catch” stuff than the tight musical score of “Bigger, Longer, Uncut.” In other words, more “Congealed Myopic Dead Fetus Growing Out Of Your Head Woman” and less “Blame Canada.”)
Following the credits, we’re introduced to our protagonist Gary Johnston. Gary is the dreamy but deep star of a Broadway musical (I’m embarrassed to know exactly why the parody of “Rent” is so dead-on. “Everyone has AIDS, white folks and also spades”) who is recruited into the group by shadowy head Spottswoodle; the bastard child of a drunken tryst between Robert Stack and Charton Heston. In the interest of saving time assume that like almost every scene, his first meeting with the other members of the team has more laughs in three minutes than many so-called respectable comedies can fit into their alloted 101-114 minutes.
It is quickly revealed to the audience (but not the characters in the movie) that seemingly Islamic terrorist attacks are actually being pulled off by all-around evil and small-dicked villian Kim Jong II of North Korea (who I’m sure only by coincidence bears a striking audio resemblence to the wall-building chink from South Park). However, since Team America and their “intelligence”… a computer named I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E. given life by one of America’s true treasures Phil Hendrie… aren’t in on the plot twist yet they send Gary undercover to weed out the threat from Egypt. This results in the descimation of the Pyramids and Sphynx as well as backlash from “unbiased” media source Peter Jennings (bet they’re wishing like hell they’d went with Rather instead) and the Hollywood community; from a double hot-dog holding Michael Moore to the elite of the “Film Actors Guild” (check initials to figure out where they’re going).
Trying to describe what happens next risks giving away too much and e-mails from fans asking “how the hell could leave [random incredibly funny moment] out? That was my favorite part.” So here’s a tiny sampling of the (non-spoiler as possible) highlights:
-The entire “Hollywood Bush Is Satan” crowd getting their pompous asses handed to them.
-The funniest song in the history of movies; intermingling the pain of loss and emptiness with repeated reminders of how much “Pearl Harbor” and star Ben Afflick suck (not to discount the greatness that is the “Montage Song”).
-Straight and gay marionette sex
-A heartfelt justification for America’s military actions articulated so perfectly that if either Bush or Kerry could explain it to everyone without being guillotined for breaking it down into “dick, pussy, and asshole” metaphors the election would be over.
-A good 200-300 laughs not revolving around any of those.
I went to see this movie with my apolitical and violence-hating girlfriend (I’d prove her steadfastness on the issue by mentioning for the first six weeks of our relationship it was almost a daily potentially-relationship ending sticking point that I was a wrestling fan. But if I was basing my judgement on the sewage we’re being fed right now I’D probably want to break up with me over that too… Snitsky greatness notwithstanding). She laughed as hard at almost every moment in Team America as I did. So did, to a one, everyone else in the theater regardless of their age, color, gender, or politcal affiliation (I didn’t poll them or anything, but it’s safe to assume 20-year old unshowered tye-dye wearers reeking of weed even more than me weren’t glued to the TV Tuesday yelling “BURY THAT AMBULANCE-CHASING COCKSUCKER CHENEY!”) I’m not saying it’s for everyone, but I’d be beyond stunned if a single regular reader of this site came away from the theater feeling they’d wasted their ticket money or time sitting through it. It's that fucking funny.
So do I recommend seeing “Team America” at your earliest possible convenience?